Horizon as white as the ice you walk on and the bright winter sun glittering on the snow that covers the scenery. No sound, no movement. Just a motionless fisherman sitting by a small hole on ice. For some, this might be a fantastical film. In Finland, it is a reality. In fact, ice-hole fishing is a form of meditation, and clearing your mind from modern clutter doesn’t get much better than this!
If you grew up in Finland, you most likely went ice-hole fishing at some point in your life. Or, if you haven’t been lucky enough to try ice-hole fishing yourself, you surely have seen the typical winter scenery over a frozen lake or sea, which is dotted by lonely fishermen and women enjoying a few hours of peace and quiet.
Ice-hole fishing is not only a pastime activity or a sport, but a form of meditation on ice. Outsiders might wonder why anyone would want to spend hours and hours freezing their butt off in the slim hope of catching, if anything, a small fish, but when you actually go and experience ice-hole fishing yourself, all doubts about the point of this activity vanish in the brisk air.
But before you head out onto the ice, some ground rules must be cleared. First, the equipment, from clothes to safety measures (such as spikes to pull yourself out of the ice hole if an accident occurs), must be looked after. Even though ice as thin as five centimetres can hold a human being, do not wander on your own to unknown territory as, especially during autumn and spring, the currents under the ice can be pretty unpredictable and make the ice unsafe.
Second, dress warmly; you never know how many hours you might end up meditating – that is, sitting by that ice hole waiting for a tiny tug on your fishing line!
Third, when you choose your spot, be aware that Finns leave about a metre between themselves and others while going about their ordinary day-to-day activities, such as talking or queuing. On the ice and with ice-hole fishing, this personal space is multiplied by 20 at least. Basically, the farther from other people you settle down, the better.
Fourth, pack a thermos of coffee or some other warm drink with you. Even if you don’t catch any fish, at least you’ve got yourself a perfect, meditative picnic by an ice hole – and an experience to remember!